In recent decades, the approach to the higher education in America has significantly changed. Students are put in the conditions of a tremendous demand for high level of knowledge and expertise in the American society, and they do everything possible to achieve the best grades in the educational evaluation. It will permit them to find better jobs and provide them with better opportunities. It is an interesting fact that in the 1970s people had another approach to the education. The three authors provide their views on the education issue from different timeline perspectives.
The middle of the 20th century was a time when American society began to foster the need to reform the system of higher education. The main causes of the process of change being launched by the government was the desire to improve the quality of education provided to the US citizens, as well as an urgent need for scientific and technological development of the country. One of the major benefits of the American education system was the introduction of the University Academic College. Transformation of higher education into a multi-stage process enabled schools to quickly respond to the need of the economy for specialists of various levels with training. The restructuring of American universities occurred spontaneously and depended on the capabilities of each institution to introduce those changes. This topic is discussed in the article by Caroline Bird "College is a Waste of Time and Money", which describes the events in the educational sphere in 1970s.
The consequences of those changes are revealed by Brent Staples in "Why Colleges Shower Their Students With A's", which reflects the problem of grade calculation in educational establishments. The author argues that "colleges have simply issued more and more A's, stoking grade inflation and devaluing degrees." (Staples 1998) According to the article, there is a grade inflation. Staples underlines that "averages have crept up from a C just 10 years ago to B-plus today." (Staples 1998) Some courses put high grades for the majority of students to make them stay in the educational program. Elseways, such courses would be closed. Part-time teachers are the most vulnerable ones in this case because since their courses face the risk of being closed thus destined to inflate the grade. Furthermore, the problem is that nowadays almost half of the courses in universities and colleges are lectured by part-time teachers. It implies that all of them are under a threat of being closed. Nevertheless, as Staples (1998) adds that some scholars suggest that the rise of an average grade has been due to good progress while others think that it is only a question of salaries and working places for teachers.
Similar problems in the educational field are described in the article "College Pressures" by William Zinsser. According to the author, students are "authentic voices of a generation that is panicky to succeed." (Zinsser 1978). This is the reason their problems are important. According to the article, in the educational evaluation of the timeline described by the author, an A-grade means excellent while B is very good. Zinsser also suggests that the time when the students were satisfied with 'gentleman C' and "journeyed through college with a certain relaxation, sampling a wide variety of courses - music, art, philosophy, classics, anthropology, poetry, religion - that would send them out as liberally educated men and women" (Zinsser 1978) has gone away. It was in 1978. Nowadays, the grade B is not enough because students hope that better schools provide an entrance into superior medical practices or law firms, for example, which will provide huge opportunities and help to make money. The author's views are the most democratic in comparison to the two others researched. He believes in providing students with the possibility to enjoy the studying process and take it as an experiment that should in any way offer a good life experience.
Possessing a teaching experience, William Zinsser writes that students usually come to him to ask for advice what to do in life: "They want a map that they can follow unswervingly to career security, financial security, social security and, presumably, a prepaid grave." (Zinsser, 1978) It is easier than acceptance that life is difficult and has many unexpected turns. The same occurs in their grade expectations. Zinsser supports the idea that "defeat is as instructive as victory and is not the end of the world." (Zinsser 1978)
Unlike two other articles, "College Pressures" raises the question of the right to fail. The author underlines that nowadays "the young are growing up old" (Zinsser 1978), which is caused by the fact they have no right to make a mistake in the ideal American society destined to succeed. According to the article, today, there are four types of pressure on students. They are economic, parental, peer and self-induced pressure.
Besides a significant difference in approaches to the issue of grade evaluation, the articles by Zinsser and Stape reflect the same problem although being written in a large time gap with William Zinsser writing his work in 1978 and Staples publishing in 1998.
The article "College is a Waste of Time and Money" by Caroline Bird reflects its main argument in its title. It was published in 1975, only two years earlier than Zinsser's work. The main argument of the article is a gap between profession required skills and knowledges received in college or university. According to the author, college attracts people with high IQ, good family background and some special skills. She suggests, "college is a good place for those young people, who are really drawn to the academic work" (Bird 1975) since education became too expensive to permit it. Bird also says that there was "a grave difficulty to assign a dollar value to the college education at all." (Bird 1975) This article raises an entirely different issue: high prices for education, difficulties to allow it and low quality of education in the practical meaning. The author suggests that there should be other ways to find a good job. Even despite its high cost, "most college administrators admit that they don't prepare their graduates for the job market." (Bird 1975) In her work, Bird supports the position that college does not make students intelligent, ambitious, liberal or happy, but it is such people who tend to attend colleges. In 1970s, a major quantity of nontechnical universities reported that there was an enormous difference between education the students get and the job they can find. Teacher, nurses, architects and other representatives of the similar professions massively claimed the same thing (Bird 1975). The author also mentions the lack of college responsibility in helping students to choose a job.
During that period, the country faced a difficult situation on the labor market. Bird underlines that Americans wanted "interesting work that permits them to make a contribution, express themselves and use their special abilities." (Bird 1975). They hoped that a college would help them to achieve it. Moreover, it should be noted that the author is a supporter of an extraordinary approach: "If a child doesn't want to go to school some morning, better let him stay home, at least until you find out why." (Bird 1975). Considering the habits and the lifestyle of mid 70s, it is easy to assume that it was a common thought at that time. It was a period of the adoption by the American high school of an interdisciplinary basis training, which later led to the structural changes within institutions of higher education. Along with the structural innovations in the United States' educational system, high school saw significant quantitative changes related to the size of different types of institutions of higher learning, number of students admitted, as well as the increase in the number of awarded scientific degrees and number of professors in universities.
The consequences of these changes are discussed in the article by Brent Staples, dated 1998. The increasing demand for the company engineers, scientists in the field of physics, social sciences, doctors, , business and trade professionals has forced universities to invest most of their resources into the training of such prospective employees. Further, according to Bird, considering the need for knowledgeable workers, the system of training and retrainig institutions saw increased levels of motivation to learn. However, it required a considerable research of knowledge structure and development of the forms and methods of education, particularly teacher trainings.
Summing up the research, the system of higher education in America has come through many changes. In 1970s, the structure of the American high school changed. There were reforms in methods of learning in the universities and colleges, which suggested restructuring of higher education to its current form. All the three articles are different in their position and theme. However, they all cover various issues in the education field, which is a common point. Further, the articles by Caroline Bird and William Zessner discuss the same period in the history of the American education system while the work by Brent Staples relates to 1998. The article by Staples is the most scholarly researched. It contains statistical data and research information and provides reliable sources. At the same time, Bird and Zessner demonstrate a more personal approach, despite the fact that they provide interviews. An analysis of the articles allows to form a particular opinion regarding the problems in the American educational system, as well as consider the reasons, causes and consequences of different phenomena in the educational sphere of the USA.
Bird, Caroline. "College Is a Waste of Time and Money", 1975. Web. 30 October, 2014.
Staples, Brent. "Why Colleges Shower Their Students With A's" ,1998. Web. 30 October, 2014.
Zinsser, William. "College Pressures". The Norton Reader ,1978, Web. 30 October, 2014.